Cicero's first major philosophical work, The Republic, or de Re Publica, was completed in 54 BCE. Not to be confused with Plato's Repubic, it deals with very different themes, proposes a very different picture of the ideal state, and in fact directly argues against a few of Plato's assertions. Lacking the time or energy to create a metanode containing the full text of this very important work of Rome's greatest orator (and in my history professor's somewhat skewed opinion, the greatest man that ever lived) I have composed the following summary of some of its major concepts.
Cicero's Ideal Society
The Origins of Society
It is a generally accepted fact that Cicero was a Stoic, and reading up on the basic tenets of that philosophy might aid in understanding many of Cicero's ideas, including his theories on the beginnings of society. For the purpose of this summary, I will distinguish Epicurean from Stoic theories about the origins of human society because the contrast greatly illuminates Cicero's point and its implications.
The Epicureans asserted that humans are not innately social creatures. Like all creatures, we possess a selfish desire for self-preservation above all else. Thus, when danger threatens in the form of common enemies, wild animals, or famine, humans come together for mutual protection: their own good. Thus, the first walled towns emerge to protect the inhabitantse from marauding rogues, luring beasts, and food shortages. All in all a remarkably scientific view. Humans unite out of necessity, not out of want. What this philosophy implies is an excessive (in Cicero's eyes) importance placed on individualism. Humans function most purely on a individual level. Politically, this inclines the average Epicurean towards a faith in good old despotism i.e.the absolute authority of the ruler.
The Stoics claimed that humans are naturally social. Men simply formed society, came together at some random but inevitable interval, because it is their nature to shun solitude. Humans prefer not to be alone. There is an innate sense of social intercourse that compels humans to bond. This seems to imply that the self is not a distinct unit. The individual is interconnected to family, friends, and the community. A few who live for the common good must possess the highest virtue. Where does this inclination lead? To de re public, of course.
The Marks of a Great People
At the root of any great or lasting society are the people. An obvious point. But what are the important traits and qualities of the ideal citizen? Cicero describes them thus, in terms of love: a love of war, a love of peace and quiet, and uniform love for a state religion. Seemingly a contradiction in terms, what Cicero is really defining here is a balance, a necassary paradox to insure stability within the state. Firstly, Cicero takes it for granted (it certainly seemed true in his time) that a purely passive and neutral state willl eventually fall victim to the machinations and bullying of more powerful and agressive nations. Thus, the people need not love war (Cicero was, after all, a rhetorician) so much as rise willingly to the task when need be, such as when threatened or in danger (see Cicero's definition of just war below). On the other hand, it may well be equally clear to a perceptive individual that constant war and provocation of one's neighbors also leads to destruction, if not outright at the nads of one's enemies, than through over-expansion (an oft raised point in the ongoing debate over the fall of Rome). Thus, "a love of peace" is useful to keep the state from overzealous martiality, and the resulting perils. The state mandated religion serves two purposes, one practical and one superstitious (to use enlightened terms, most Romans would have doubtless termed it devotion). On the practical side, religion helps to substantively establish the balance between war and peace described above. In superstitious terms, it wil make sure them gods don't get angry.
A great leader must possess courage, a quality of "high-mindedness and a lofty scorn of death and pain." He must be wise, just, self-controlled and eloquent. This goes back to the Stoic theory on the origins of society. The ideal ruler must also be cultured in the way of the Greeks and be knowledgeable about Greek literature. This goes back to the Roman inferiority complex towards the Greeks.
Just War Theory
I mentioned earlier in my bit about the Ciceronian love of war, that this view was conditional. Any pursuit if war must be in pursuit of 'lawful' war. Even that was loked on critically. "An unjust peace is better than a just war," as ol' Marcus was fond of saying. All in all, there are four types of war: just, unjust, civil, and foreign ("more than civil") wars. Just war is that which is fought after the enemy was warned concerning the unjust loss of holdings, land, or for the sake of fending off enemies. Unjust war is that which is begun from wrath rather than lawful reason. "Unjust wars are those begun without a reason. For there is no just reason for war outside of just vengeance or self defense." And Cicero added this shortly afterward: "No war is to be considered just unless it was openly announced and declared, unless reparation has first been demanded." (3,35) Civil war, obviously, is an internal war between father, son, brother fought within the state's own territory. Generally, Cicero looked on this as bering very bad. Ahh, what genius. At this point, Cicero prattles on about some underwhelming distinction between 'tumult' and war, wherein a tumult is defined as involving sedition among the citizens.
The Best People Will Not Hold All Things in Common (against Plato/Aristotle)
From the reading I have done, this discussion seems to take place in two senses. In one sense, Cicero's argument seems to against communism. i.e. that sharing all property in common will lead to destabilization yadda yadda yadda. This is against Aristotle. In other works, however, namely de Finibus, Cicero also argues that good people do not necassarily hold the same values/virtues in common. i.e. what is good for one man is good for another. I have read enough confliting literatue on this subject to be convinced of its importance but not its clarity. Thoughts are appreciated. Just message me.
Apart from the primary source and random readings which I do not recall and are not directly quoted, lectures on Roman Literature given by an expert marksman and thorough Republican.